Lewis Carroll trans. Colin Sydenham
"You are old, Father William," the young man said,
.....And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head -
.....Do you think, at your age, it is right?"

"In my youth," Father William replied to his son,
....."I feared it might injure my brain;
But now that Iím perfectly sure I have none,
.....Why, I do it again and again."

"You are old," said the youth, "as I mentioned before,
.....And have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door -
.....Pray what is the reason of that?"

"In my youth," said the sage, as he shook his grey locks,
....."I kept all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment - one shilling the box -
.....Allow me to sell you a couple?"

"You are old," said the youth, "and your jaws are too weak
.....For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak -
.....Pray how did you manage to do it?"

"In my youth," said his father, "I took to the law,
.....And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength, which it gave to my jaw,
.....Has lasted the rest of my life."

"You are old," said the youth, "one would hardly suppose
.....That your eye is as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose -
.....What made you so awfully clever?"

"I have answered three questions, and that is enough,"
.....Said his father; "donít give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
.....Be off, or Iíll kick you downstairs!"
Filius "O Gravitumne parens, aetate laboras"
.....Inquit "et oppressit cana senecta caput.
Saepe sed inverso tu tendis ad aethera plantas
.....Vertice. Num censes ista decere senem?

"Donec eram iuvenis " genitor "mihi crede" roganti
....."Ne cerebro officerent ista verebar" ait.
Nunc tamen omnino didici mihi deesse cerebrum,
.....Quare iterum morem nunc iterumque sequor."

Tum "Prius ut dixi, pater o Gravitumne, senescis,
.....Pondus et immodicum venter obesus alit.
At volvisse retro flexum trans limina dorsum
.....Te video. Motus quae tibi causa fuit?"

Cui sapiens canos quatiens "Mea membra" capillos
....."Mollia servabam, dum iuvenilis eram,
Hoc adhibens unguen - pretio venale pusillo -
.....Pyxida mercari si cupis, ecce licet."

Sed "Solet" ille "seni dentis decrescere robur;
.....Tu quoque pulte nihil durius esse vales;
Anseris at rostrum tu nuper et ossa vorasti.
.....Unde, precor, malae vis tibi tanta venit?"

"Legibus" hic "studui prius, et causam uxor agebat
.....Actoris, quotiens lis erat, ipse rei;
Hinc quem non potuit mihi debilitare senectus,
.....Iste torus malae garrulitate datur."

Ille "Senex" iterat "pater es, nec miror acuta
.....Si visus acies coepit hebere tibi;
Tu tamen anguillam summis in naribus idem
.....Librabas. Adeo quomodo dexter eras?

Cui "Satis est" genitor "tibi ter responsa dedisse;
.....Te iactare nimis, nate proterve, cave.
Num me posse diem credis blaterare per omnem?
.....Aufuge, ne scalis deiiciaris; abi."

Trans. copyright © Colin Sydenham 2006

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